Robert Devereux was born on 10th November 1565 at Netherwood near Bromyard, in Herefordshire.
Robert was the son of Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex, and Lettice Knollys.
His maternal great-grandmother Mary Boleyn was a sister of Anne Boleyn, the mother of Queen Elizabeth I.
This made Robert a first-cousin-twice-removed of the queen.
Robert's father died in 1576, and his mother Lettice then married Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.
Dudley was Elizabeth I's long-standing favourite, and Robert Devereux's godfather.
Robert performed military service under his stepfather Dudley, in the Netherlands.
In 1590, Robert married Frances Walsingham, daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham.
Together they had several children, three of whom survived into adulthood.
In October 1591, Robert's mistress, Elizabeth Southwell, gave birth to their son Walter Devereux.
Robert arrived at Elizabeth Is court when he was hardly into his twenties.
Tall and handsome, he was every inch the gallant young aristocrat, chivalrous, open-handed, sure of himself, and impulsive.
Robert was 33 years younger than the queen, but she warmed to his wit and his charm, and they danced and played cards together through the night.
Unfortunately, Essex was a peacock for vanity, fiercely jealous, easily offended and not overly keen on being ruled by a woman.
One day in 1598, the Queen refused a request of his, and he turned his back on her.
This was an appalling breach of etiquette, and the furious queen boxed his ears.
Robert's hand went straight for his sword, a courtier intervened, and Robert stalked off ~ swearing that he would not have tolerated such an insult, even from her father, Henry VIII.
Queen Elizabeth soon forgave him, and in 1599 Robert was sent to Ireland to suppress an uprising.
He failed dismally, then defied Elizabeths instructions and returned to England.
At court it was feared that he intended a coup against Elizabeth.
He was put under house arrest and suspended from his official posts.
Beside himself with rage, Robert plotted to seize the Queen and take control of the government.
On Sunday 8th February 1601, Robert, with more than a hundred men brandishing swords, strode up Ludgate Hill into the City, calling on the citizens to rise in his support.
The citizens very sensibly found other things to do, and Robert retreated back to his house, where he was besieged by soldiers sent to arrest him.
He surrendered and was imprisoned in the Tower of London before being tried for treason on the 19th February.
Despite all his vanity and pride, he was found guilty.
On the morning of the 25th February 1601, he was taken out to the courtyard of the Tower.
After lengthy prayers, Robert doffed his black cap and took off his coat, revealing a scarlet waistcoat with long sleeves.
He placed his head on the block and spread out his arms to indicate he was ready.
It took three strokes of the axe to sever his neck and the headsman held the head aloft by its long, fair hair, saying God save the Queen!
Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex, was 34 years old when his head fell to the exEcutioners axe.
The messenger who took the news to Elizabeth at court, found her playing the virginals.
At the news she stopped and there was silence.
No one uttered a word.
Then she began playing again......
Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex c.1596.
Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger